A year after the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict on Singur land acquisition, dwellers of this rural hamlet in West Bengal’s Hooghly district are still voicing contradictory opinions on whether they have benefited from repossession of land and efforts to resume cultivation.
Last year, on August 31, the apex court had set aside 997.11 acres acquired by the previous Left Front government in the state for a Nano car plant, saying that due processes and procedures were not followed. The court also ordered that the acquired land be returned to farmers within 12 weeks and asked the government to provide compensation to all of them.
Accordingly, the state’s Mamata Banerjee government had kicked off the process of returning the land on October 20.
“Cultivation has commenced in 400-450 acres and efforts are on to make the rest of the land cultivable. We hope cultivation would be on in full swing by the next Rabi season across the entire acquired land,” Mahadeb Das, a farmer who was against forcible land acquisition, told IANS.
On the other hand, Singur Silpo Bachao Committee’s (Singur Save Industry Committee) Convenor Udayan Das told IANS: “Many farmers are saying misleading things by suppressing facts. Nowhere has cultivation started afresh. In fact, it was not possible to restore the land to its pre-acquisition status.”
“Cultivation was on only on a 50-60 acre plot adjacent to Gopalnagar Mouza. This plot was within the acquired area but no development or concretisation was done there. Farmers used to cultivate in the plot even before the Supreme Court verdict came,” Udayan said.
Both, however, said the process of returning land was not yet complete due to “some litigation and technical problems”.
In fact, agricultural experts had voiced doubts over the “ecological and economical viability” of restoring the land to its pre-acquisition status.
Chief Minister Banerjee earlier claimed that 932 acres of land was made cultivable, while work was going on to develop the remaining 65 acres.
Banerjee — who had spearheaded the anti-land acquisition protests from 2006-2008 as the supremo of Trinamool Congress, demanding 400 acres out of the 997.11 acres acquired for the project be returned to those farmers who did not want to part with their land — had commenced cultivation in a symbolic gesture by sowing a mustard seed.
“Where is the yield from the mustard seed,” Udayan Das asked.
However, following a sustained and violent agitation by the peasants lead by Banerjee’s then main opposition Trinamool Congress, the Tatas announced, in October 2008, that the project will be shifted out of Singur. Later, the Nano rolled out from Sanand in Gujarat.